Undoubtedly, the most American form of environmentalism is conservation. Conservation is regarded as wise-use management (or stewardship) of natural resources. Everyone loves the party game “Two Truths and a Lie.” Can you identify which of the three following statements about conservation is a lie?

A. The U.S. is a leader in environmental stewardship.
B. The best way to protect the environment is to preserve it through government stewardship.
C. Individuals play an important role in environmental progress.

Let’s take these statements one at a time: 

A. TRUTH. The U.S. is a global leader in environmental stewardship. Our nation has curbed emissions; innovated energy technology; conserved, recovered, and delisted threatened and endangered species; and taken steps to adhere to clean water and air standards. 

Guided by a true conservationist ethos, which calls for wise use of natural resources, our nation has advanced policies that bolster both nature and people. As a result, the world looks to us for guidance on balancing economic development with environmental protection.

B. LIE. The U.S. has made incredible progress in conserving our environment and promoting good stewardship of our natural resources. But a preservationist environmentalism, which calls for “no use” of natural resources enforced by greater government involvement, threatens the progress we’ve achieved on this front. 

Unfortunately, the federal government, led by the Biden White House, is pursuing a policy agenda that will make us more and more dependent on foreign nations with poor environmental and human rights track records for energy and rare earth minerals. Even more troubling, preservationists are distorting the truth about conservation and increasingly relying on public policy to implement top-down solutions to today’s pressing environmental problems. This could have dire consequences for human flourishing. 

C. TRUTH. Top-down governmental policies can be a hindrance to achieving environmental progress in the U.S. Instances like the 2015 King Gold Mine spill and Flint water crisis confirm the federal government can perpetuate, rather than mitigate, crises. 

That’s why private individuals, who are naturally incentivized to conserve their surroundings, should lead conservation efforts going forward. In many instances, private efforts can mitigate environmental problems by engaging with stakeholders like land owners. Given governmental shortcomings through heavy-handed involvement and red tape, private solutions can adequately fix problems and resolve conflict. Some individuals and groups are already working to conserve our national resources.

To learn more about conservation (and examples of successful efforts) in the U.S., check out our policy focus: The Future of Environmentalism: True Conservation.